Author Dori Weinstein has created the YaYa and YoYo series, which addresses the struggles and triumphs of today’s Jewish kids
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
As a teacher, Dori Weinstein was always searching for materials to which her students could relate. During her four years at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul, where she co-taught with Wendy Goldberg, she and her classes read Lost Children of Tarshish by Ehud Tokatly, Shemuel Klitsner and Judy Klitsner, about a group of Orthodox children who continue to live a Jewish life on a deserted island.
“That book really inspired me,” Weinstein recently told the AJW. “I thought, What a cool concept. You could write a fiction book teaching in that way about Jewish stuff.”
Later, as a stay-at-home mom, Weinstein continued to search for Jewish literature to read with her children. What she found, however, was a lot of historical fiction about the Holocaust, World War II and the shtetls.
“I thought, Wouldn’t that be cool if there was something current, something modern that taught about how to celebrate being Jewish and the beauty of Judaism today? Not just who we were, but who we are now,” Weinstein said. “I wanted something else and I couldn’t find it, so I thought, Why don’t I write it?”
Weinstein has written Sliding Into the New Year (Yaldah Publishing), the first in her YaYa and YoYo series for children. Twelve books are planned, which will take place in each month of the year, and the series is intended for ages nine to 12, grades three to six.
The books’ covers are illustrated by Martha Rast.
- Sliding Into the New Year, the first in author Dori Weinstein’s YaYa and YoYo series, is now available from Yaldah Publishing. The cover was illustrated by Martha Rast.
YaYa and YoYo are nicknames for 11-year-old twins Ellie (Yael) and Joel (Yoel) Silver. In this first book, Ellie has been waiting all summer to visit the new indoor water park in town. She’s ecstatic when her friend Megan invites her to go along; that is, until Joel points out that Megan is going on the first day of Rosh Hashana.
“My goal for the overall series is to talk about what is wonderful about Judaism now, today,” Weinstein said. “I’ve actually read several books where it’s lamenting, ‘Poor me, I’m Jewish and I don’t get to this and I don’t get to that.’ Rather, this is talking about what’s amazing, what’s wonderful and what we can celebrate about being Jewish.”
Weinstein described her characters as current and modern: they go to public school and afternoon Hebrew school, yet continue to maintain the traditions of Judaism.
Weinstein’s second book, set in October, will explore Sukkot and the twins’ 11th birthdays, which happen to be on different days — “I was born almost eleven years ago at five minutes before midnight,” Ellie explains. “He didn’t show up until eight minutes after midnight, the next day.”
The third book will center on Aunt Rachel’s wedding in November, a month that doesn’t normally include any Jewish holidays. The tentative plan is to release one book each year.
- Dori Weinstein
Weinstein hopes her book will become part of a discussion in families and classrooms, perhaps as part of a curriculum. Before it was published, Weinstein shared her book with students in local schools, including those at the Amos and Celia Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School.
“It really resonated with them, the kids really liked it,” Weinstein said. “And I asked kids who come from all different backgrounds. I had kids that were not affiliated at all… I did have Reform, Conservative and Orthodox kids read it and I got their reactions to it. They all enjoyed it and were very positive.”
Sliding Into the New Year is available through Yaldah Publishing, at Barnes and Noble stores and on its Web site, and at Amazon.com. The book is also available at Brochin’s, where Weinstein will appear and sign copies on April 10.
“For the kids who are not Jewish, there is so much out there,” Weinstein said. “What excited me about this whole concept was to create something for Jewish kids that they could enjoy because it’s their story.”
Author Dori Weinstein will sign copies of Sliding Into the New Year 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10 at Brochin’s, 5808 W. 36th St., St. Louis Park. For information, call 952-926-2011.
For information on Weinstein’s YaYa and YoYo series, visit: www.yayayoyo.com.
(American Jewish World, 3.18.11)